Understanding urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections


A urinary tract infection is an infection that occurs in your child’s urinary system. The urinary system includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.  

Urinary tract infections are fairly common in children and are most often caused by bacteria. In many cases, initial urinary tract infections can be resolved by giving your child antibiotic therapy, which will be directed by your doctor. 

However, when children experience recurrent urinary tract infections, it could be due to a malformation or malfunction of their urinary tract.  

Your doctor will determine if the cause of your child’s urinary tract infection is due to bacteria or another condition such as, vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) 

VUR is a condition in which urine from the bladder backs up to the ureters. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys down to the bladder. Sometimes when a child has VUR, urine can flow all the way back up into the kidney.  

If your child does have VUR, this website will help you better understand what it is so you can have a more informed conversation with your doctor about it.  

Understanding the urinary tract 

The urinary tract is divided into two areas – the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract.  

The upper tract includes the kidneys and the tubular structure (ureter) that runs from the kidney to the bladder. The lower tract includes the bladder and the urethra, which is the tube through which your child urinates.


Signs and symptoms that your child may have a urinary tract infection include: 

  • Pain while urinating 
  • Needing to urinate more frequently than normal 
  • Feeling an urgent need to urinate immediately 
  • Loss of previously established urinary control (i.e., uncharacteristic bed wetting) 

Additionally, these symptoms may be accompanied by a fever or abdominal pain. 


When urinary tract infections are the result of a bacterial infection, physicians are often able to treat them by prescribing antibiotics.    

If your child has recurring urinary tract infections it may be a sign that he or she has VUR. If this is the case, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a pediatric urologist. A pediatric urologist will be able to provide you with treatment options that are specific to your child’s individual needs. Find a pediatric urologist near you.